RESOURCEFUL SANTA CLAUS
ONE Saturday about two weeks before Christmas found Miss Guinevere Hilliard sitting in the large fireside chair, swinging her silk-stockinged leg disconsolately to and fro, endeavoring to write a letter to Santa Claus. She was nine years old and the only child of the rich silk merchant. At her side sat Fuzzy, the small white poodle, gazing with blinking, cynical eyes into the fire.
"Dear Santa Claus," she began, "I suppose I'd better have another doll this Christmas, but I don't care much, for I have too many already. But if you do give me one, please give me one that can say something besides 'Mamma,' when I punch it. And don't give me any more railroad games, for I'm tired having nurse tell me to run and play at railroads. And I don't want silk dresses or furs, either, for they aren't really Christmas presents. And I want the biggest tree I've ever had, with the biggest balls and the brightest tinsel, or else I don't want any . . . Oh, Fuzzy, I'm tired of Christmas and tired of Santa Claus." Whereupon the sated and blasé young lady fell asleep, and did not awaken until Fuzzy, startled into consciousness by the landing of a spark on the tip of his aristocratic nose, leaped into his mistress's lap in a fine fury.
The sleep had been so sound that Miss Guinevere had not seen her nurse enter the library, and finding a fallen sheet of paper, pick it up and depart with it. Being a very wise nurse, she naturally forwarded it to the person for whom it was intended. Old Santa Claus must surely have scratched his head over the difficulty of giving a merry Christmas to so world-weary and fastidious a maiden. But Santa Claus was a resourceful old fellow, and did not intend to be deposed by a "poor little rich girl."
The two weeks passed, and Christmas morning dawned in a flurry of snowflakes. Miss Guinevere tumbled out of bed at a late hour, and peeping through the curtains addressed herself to her bosom-friend, Fuzzy. "Now, Fuzzy, what do you think of this snow on Christmas morning? My new hat and your pink bow will both be spoiled if we go out, and there is nothing to do at home," and she jerked her small shoe viciously.
At this critical juncture her mother entered and bade her hurry downstairs to see what Santa Claus had brought for her. Very nonchalantly she descended, quite prepared to be bored. She opened the door, and looked, and looked, and did not understand. No glittering balls, no electric lights, no miniature cars tooting around the bottom of the tree; no life-sized bisque doll-baby, no silks nor jewels. Instead, a small cedar tree with a silver star at the top, and over its branches strings of cranberries and pop-corn chains, home-made fairies and ginger-bread dolls what quaint, friendly, little beings they were! There was a white cotton doll-baby with a lovely briar-stitched cape, and black, beady eyes, which pierced straight into one's heart's secrets, and a lovely little grandmother doll with a hickory-nut head upon which was perched a dainty white cap, while a little white shawl and white apron over her drab-colored dress completed her costume. She had a quizzical expression as one who should say, "Am I not welcome?" Miss Guinevere Hilliard saw and smiled on them all, and touched them gently and tenderly in turn. Sitting down on the white sheet which draped the tree-box, with an orange in one hand and a Christmas-candy poll-parrot in the other, and gazing deep into Fuzzy's eyes, she remarked, "Fuzzy, dear, isn't this the funniest Christmas ever?"
Just at this moment the door opened and Mrs. Hilliard led in a small child, probably a year or two younger than Guinevere, her hair braided in two very stiff neat braids. She wore a little coat which she had seriously outgrown, and a funny close-fitting bonnet. On her face was an expression of surprise which matched Guinevere's own. Mrs. Hilliard watched the two children a minute and then, laughing, said, "Guinevere, Santa Claus received your note, and sent you this little girl, whose name is Mary Jones and whose home has been in an orphan asylum until today. Now she is to live with us and play with you and love and care for all your poor neglected bisque dollies who squeak 'Mamma' when you punch them."
Then from an unnoticed bundle she produced a little brown coat, a pair of leggings, two stout shoes, a skating cap and a pair of mittens. "These, dear," she said to Guinevere, "are your new stormy-day clothes, guaranteed not to mind the snow-flakes. Now, when you can tear yourself away from your tree, go up and put them on, and then you and Mary and Fuzzy go out for a romp in the drifts."
That night before going to bed, though tired and sleepy, after a strenuous day, Guinevere demanded a pencil and paper and wrote: "Dear Santa Claus, you are the best ever, and Mary Jones says so, too. Please forgive everything I said before, because I've been an only child and Mamma says she's sorry for only children, because they get too much. But, now, I have Mary Jones and we both love gingerbread-dolls, and I do love you, Santa Claus. Yours truly, Guinevere Hilliard."